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Your home is a TEMPLE, and we want to be the high priests.

Posts Tagged ‘india’

A Visit to the Taj Mahal!

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Truly Monumental!

Here are the Madcap Cottage gents at the Taj Mahal in Agra, India a few years back on our weeks-long trip to this amazing country. John and I awoke at sunrise to visit this fabled mausoleum and were lucky enough to miss the gobs and gobs of visitors who pay homage to the amazing site each day.


I hope your week is going along swimmingly…

It’s a rainy afternoon in Brooklyn, so I decided to do a little armchair travel and pay a visit to the fabled Taj Mahal monument in Agra, India. What could be better than a revisit to this monument to love eternal…

Sometimes you see a famous monument, and it’s really not all that. The Eiffel Tower is amazing, but Graceland was sort of small and suburban and the Statue of Liberty is sort-of short and squatty. But the Taj Mahal lives up to its hype and how. It’s truly awe-inspiring.

Commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to house the remains of his cherished wife, the Taj Mahal stands on the southern bank of the Yamuna River in Agra, India. The famed mausoleum complex, built over more than 20 years, is one of the most outstanding examples of Mughal architecture, which combined Indian, Persian, and Islamic influences. At its center is the Taj Mahal itself, built of shimmering white marble that seems to change color depending on the sunlight or moonlight hitting its surface. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983, it remains one of the world’s most celebrated structures and a stunning symbol of India’s rich history.

To tour the Taj, visitors can arrive at sunrise and view the complex before the hordes (and we mean, hordes!) descend upon the monument by mid-morning. We were at the Taj by 5am–even after a swinging night of cocktails the evening before–and lapped it all up like gin in a bathtub…

Add a visit to the Taj Mahal to your bucket list… You won’t be disappointed.

Glory Days!

The marble-clad Taj Mahal is just as inspiring and dramatic as you might expect. John and I have truly never experienced anything quite like it. We wanted to move in.

Patio, Daddy-o!

John takes in the vista of the Yamuna River from the vast terrace behind the Taj Mahal. The river was wrapped in mist and was truly dramatic and otherworldly.

Sitting Pretty!

John takes a seat on the so-called "Princess Diana" bench where Diana was once snapped solo in a now-iconic photo.

Green Goddess!

The Taj Mahal has deliciously green gardens that contrast with the not-so-picturesque city of Agra that sits just outside the complex's gates. Agra was the one Indian city that didn't speak to me...

Heart of Stone!

Here I am am posting Facebook updates in one of the Taj Mahal's stunning red-stone pavilions. The stonework in the complex is staggering. Note the orange booties that you have to wear when touring the complex.

Room with a View!

Later on the day of our visit, John and I traveled across the Yamuna River to some verdant riparian gardens just across from the Taj Mahal. This was by far the best vantage point to take in the monument in all its glory as the gardens were absolutely empty.


Dreaming of India!

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

Scarlet Fever!

Our our recent trip to India, John and I were lucky enough to take a Jeep tour through the Thar desert near Jodhpur. We loved being in the middle of this incredibly arid landscape and seeing native villagers dressed in every color of the rainbow. The Indian color sensibility is revelatory.


Our heartfelt wishes to friends who are combating the devastation of Hurricane Sandy… We are thinking about you!

John and I made out A-OK in Brooklyn, and we were lucky enough to not have the power go off and there was no damage to our home. We are very thankful…

Today I needed a little color-packed pick-me-up, so I turned my sights upon the sights and smells of India. As you may remember, John and I visited India last year, and we immediately fell in love with the country. It’s a heady mix of extreme contrasts, but somehow it all works. We were completely transfixed. And transfigured.

One of my most favorite afternoons in India was a Jeep tour that we did of the Thar desert outside of Jodhpur when we visited native villages and viewed local wildlife. John and I were especially moved by the juxtaposition of the arid desert and the wonderfully rich hues worn by local villagers. We would turn a corner in the middle of nowhere, and there would be a woman in the most stunning pinks, greens, and blues with a jug perched atop her head. The sky was exceptionally clear, and the colors stood out like a Technicolor film clip against the dry, dry landscape.

Here are a few snapshots from our visit.

Tip, Top Tour!

Here I am in the Jeep during our wonderful tour of the beautiful Thar desert.

Chop, Chop!

Check out this elegant gentleman trimming his tree in a stunning white get-up paired with a bright red turban. What a gorgeous contrast against the very arid landscape!

Nice Jug!

Check out this frisky lady en route from the well with a big plastic jug upon her head. Did this woman choose to wear beige? Hell, no! Kudos that color plays such an important role in India. Would you have worn such eye-popping hues to visit your local well?

Green with Envy!

I loved this gigantic pile of pale green melons sitting by the roadside. The sudden "pops" of color that we experienced during our Jeep tour were simply gorgeous.


A Visit to the Brand-New De Gournay Showroom!

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

De Gournay Delicious!

Here's John outside the soon-to-open de Gournay showroom on the corner of 59th Street in Manhattan. De Gournay's handpainted wallpapers are too delicious for words. The Madcap Cottage gents were thrilled to be invited for a pre-opening tour.


Are you familiar with the de Gournay line of wallpapers, mirrors, furnishings, and fabrics? If not, you should be!

John and I are simply smitten with the London-based firm’s incredible handpainted wallpapers, and we were thrilled to be invited to visit their not-yet-open showroom on the corner of East 59th Street and Second Avenue yesterday for a sneak preview of their new digs.

The de Gournay wallpapers are quite expensive, but then again they are crafted by hand on the likes of dyed silk, slub silk, and India tea paper. The scenic papers are our favorites: We are crazy for the Early Views of India paper with its elephants and gentlemen in turbans prancing about. And don’t even get me started on the glorious Deco Monkeys!

Here are some images from the soon-to-open showroom to inspire you.

P.S. The showroom officially opens on October 3.

Deco Drama!

I think you can see why John and I are over the moon for the Deco Monkeys wallpaper from de Gournay. Um, this paper makes me bananas!

Look Book!

John peruses the de Gournay collections with the lovely Gwendolyn Rayner, the director of the New York showroom.

Panel Discussion!

A panel from the glorious Early Views of India wallpaper. Because the wallpapers are created by hand, each detail can be changed and custom-colored. You'd like a gent in a pink turban, no problem! And the wallpaper is crafted around your architectural renderings, so you can wrap the paper around doors and windows with the pattern placed accordingly to maximize the impact. Genius!

Memories of China!

A very dramatic Chinese-inspired vista anchors a wall in the de Gournay showroom.

Blue Velvet!

A rich blue lacquered wallpaper with a de Gournay mirror and armchairs at the entrance to the showroom. Chic, n'est-ce pas?



Sofa City, Baby!

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Viva India!

John and I spotted this day bed in India and were instantly smitten. This comfy alcove totally inspired us to create a modified day bed that could function as a comfortable sofa with multiple functions. As I like to say, Always carry a digital camera or a smart phone. You never know where you might find inspiration.


Let’s talk about c-u-s-t-o-m! And I mean custom furnishings.

Ever wonder if you should go the route of a custom sofa?

Your space is awkward and the dimensions of your living room are anything but standard.., But, um, aren’t custom furnishings super expensive? So you call up Pottery Barn or Ballard and you order an off-the-rack couch, but it just doesn’t really fit the space that way that you wish it would.

So what do the Madcap Cottage gents think about going custom? We say, go for it! But you have to have the right craftsmen who can create something marvelous and at the right price.

Here’s a “for instance”: A client in Des Moines, Iowa (and, yes, we do lots of work in Iowa!) wanted a sofa for their basement rec room. They wanted a couch that could function as a sleeping space for grandkids, but the room wasn’t wide enough to accommodate a traditional sleeper. The second problem was that the doorway to room was narrower than normal–exactly 29″ so most ready-made or semi-custom sofas wouldn’t fit through the door.

That’s when we hit upon the day bed idea, a eureka moment lifted from a similar sofa style that we spotted in Turkey and will custom create for our Iowa client. This daybed style is as wide as a traditional twin mattress so it can function as a bed. Its two pieces can be separated as needed. The back will be an assortment of mismatched pillows that we are sourcing from Turkey and India. And because the piece is custom we will play with the dimensions. The room is small and storage limited so we designed the sofa base so baskets will easily fit underneath. This is where working with a professional really pays off: It’s like having a suit made. The sofa fits our client’s room and their lifestyle pefectly and it will more than likely outlast you.

Our atelier in LA crafted something amazing!

The price was on-par with sofas that we were sourcing from various North Carolina manufacturers, and it fits her space perfectly. And out client’s sofa was made in America, which we love.

So don’t overlook custom furniture!

If you need a custom furniture manufacturer, contact the Madcap Cottage gents, and we will happily price out a custom furnishing that will perfectly suit your space.

Turkish Delight!

This sectional in Turkey totally sparked our interest. We love a good, modified sofa that has lots of comfy seating for watching TV or reading a book.

Photo Finish!

And here's the finished custom sofa that we created for our client in Iowa. The multi-functional sofa fits our client's rec room perfectly, and it's super comfy thanks to the depth and the soon-to-come throw pillows that will sit against the wall. We will blog about the sofa once we have it installed and the pillows are in place.


A Little Potty Talk, Please!

Thursday, March 15th, 2012


Far-Flung Flavor!

The folks at Kohler asked us to write about how to bring color into the bathroom. Read our installment, "A Taste for the Exotic," by clicking on our inspiration board, above.


How the hell are we doing this week? Any good stories, any design travails? Do tell.

Let’s talk design. Actually, let’s talk a little about loos… Some good potty talk is definitely in order.

There isn’t a day when John and I don’t see an exceptionally boring bathroom. Yes, boring. B-O-R-I-N-G!

The Madcap Cottage boys think that your loo should be a real looker, that it should be packed with panache and verve, wit and style. And that doesn’t mean that we don’t love a good white sink and white toilet, but, come on! Add some further oomph.

Paint your walls… Better yet, wallpaper your walls.

Add interesting lighting.

Think about using a piece of furniture in your bathroom if you have the space.

Recently, the fab folks at Kohler asked us to do a blog installment for them on how to bring color into you bathroom. Our response?

A Taste for the Exotic.

Click on the link, above, to read how we suggest bringing some ethnic elan into your own home. And, granted, we selected several pieces from the high-end Baker line, but don’t overlook Target, Z Gallerie, and Home Goods for fabulous, well-priced ethnic inspiration.

So, go ahead, and take your bathroom to the next level. Then send us photos!



Love is a Warm Gun! And Other Tales…

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Foyer Fabulous!

Here's the vest pocket-sized foyer at our Chester Court home. We wallpapered the walls and ceiling and added rhinestones to the paper for further pop. And then there are all sorts of ethnic "moments" scattered across the wall. The Chinoiserie mirror hails from eBay. I want to add a disco ball next. This is the "before" shot: Check out our further-embellished foyer at the end of the post.


As you read in our last post, John and I spent this past weekend moving furniture, hanging artwork, and embellishing various spaces in our home at Chester Court.

Of course, we broke out our most favorite tool of the trade, the glue gun. There’s nothing better than having at a wall or a ceiling with the trusty glue gun, and if you don’t have such a tool in your possession, run to your nearest craft store and stock up.

Says John, “A glue gun is like water. An essential item.”

I retort, “A glue gun is like a crate of wine. An essential item.”

Our foyer at Chester Court is a small space that we have done up with glorious wallpaper from Matthew Williamson and gobs of ethnic-inspired “moments” to add loads of visual impact. The foyer could have been a simple, unadorned pass-through space, but we want people to really savor the entry to our home. We have objects that we have collected in India and Turkey, a pair of coral-like metal candleholders, Chinoiserie figurines, and a wild Balinese mask hanging over the inner door named Maude.

But we felt like the space could use even more punch and pow.

And so we busted out the glue gun and inexpensive sari trim that we found in a bazaar in Delhi, India and went to town.

Why not try a similar project in your own home? And you don’t need to hightail it to India for trim: A jaunt to JoAnn Fabric will do just swell thanks to their collection of embellishments and ribbon.


All That Glitters is Gold!

John and I found this inexpensive and highly gilt sari trim at a bazaar in India. If you want to embellish a room, why not use grosgrain ribbon that you can pick up at your local craft store... That's my furry hand holding the trim.

Love is a Warm Gun!

John gets busy on the walls of our foyer with his glue gun. "Love is a warm gun," says John. Er?

Camel, Ho!

John and I found these fun camel and elephant adornments on our travels, and we tacked them to the walls of the foyer for fun. These look chic, n'est-ce pas?

Getting Busy!

John continues to wrap our foyer with the sparkly trim. Maude, our Balinese mask, gives John the googly eyes as he works magic with his trusty glue gun.

The Foyer "After!"

Here's our new-and-improved foyer after its embellishment. The sari trim running along the ceiling adds sparkle and brings the eye up. Since this is such a small space, we wanted to use embellishment to maximize the "experience" of passing through this room. Guests walk into our home and feel like they are entering another world. And they are, dearie, they are...


Up at the Lake!

Thursday, November 17th, 2011


Taj Lake Palace!

The incredible former island palace that is now the Taj Lake Palace hotel floating like a gorgeous pearl in Udaipur, India's stunning, man-made Lake Pichola.



John and I are en route to Europe tomorrow…. So let’s bang a gong, our much-needed working vacation is just about to get started.

Hurrah! Small dance. Kick up heels. Deep breath. Yippie!

London. Amsterdam. Germany. Switzerland. Finally, we zip off to Paris and then it’s back to London.

But first let’s revisit another working trip from the recent past to get us in the mood for decompression–our amazing voyage to India last year.

And, specifically, let’s set our sights upon the city of Udaipur in the state of Rajasthan and the amazing, otherworldly Taj Lake Palace Hotel

But wait, you ask, driving from the airport into Udaipur’s city limits: Where’s the charm? It’s mayhem, chaos, a cacophony of traffic and snarl with cows sitting in the middle of the road, pigs running about and packs of wild dogs and monkeys scampering everywhere. It’s zoning run amuck. But then you notice the women in mustard, sky blue and shocking pink saris, and the car pulls into the gates of the palace of the Maharana of Udaipur, and it’s hello, welcome to fantasy island. For Udaipur houses the postcard-perfect Lake Pichola, a vast man-made body of water seemingly plucked from a dreamscape, its cerulean waters anchored by the Maharana’s vast City Palace on one side and punctuated with islands, one being the former royal pleasure gardens, Jag Mandir, and the other, the incredible Taj Lake Palace Hotel.

I have been lucky enough to visit many of the world’s top hotels, and I have never experienced anything so special, so chic, so cosseting as the Taj Lake Palace. Originally built in the 18th century as the Maharana’s summer palace (the royal family’s other palaces being the City Palace and the Monsoon Palace, visible atop a mountain in the distance), the Lake Palace is a whitewashed fantasy of minarets and courtyards that’s accessible only to hotel guests via a private launch. It’s all arches, stained glass, butlers, rose petals and eye-popping views of Lake Pichola. You are quickly sucked into the world of Indian royalty in its heyday.

If you can tear yourself away from the luxe, take the launch to the City Palace and explore the endless rooms that have been decorated with mosaics and mirrors and frescoes. When you return to the Lake Palace come nightfall, dine upon the hotel’s rooftop terrace and take in the dramatically lit City Palace—it’s a fairytale come true.


Let's Launch!

Here I am aboard the private launch that carries guests of the hotel from Udaipur out into Lake Pichola and the Taj Lake Palace hotel. Only hotel guests can visit the property, so it's wonderfully private and relaxing. Please note the ever-present L.L. Bean Boat & Tote bag, here in camo.

Up Close & Personal!

A close-up view of the Taj Lake Palace. The exterior might be all white, but the interior rooms, courtyards, and gardens are awash in jewel tones.

Petal Pushers!

A welcome arrangement of flowers at the Taj Lake Palace. I love the combination of rich pink petals paired with bright orange marigolds. Marigolds play such an important role in India as a symbol of welcome...




Turkish Delight (And a Few Carpets, too!)

Thursday, September 15th, 2011


Here's the stunning view of the tiny town of Sirince in southern Turkey as seen from our balcony. Pass the vino and crank up the stereo, kitty cat. I love that minaret just down the street, but the call to prayer kicks in at 5:30am so catch me, Jesus.


John and I are sitting on the terrace of our rented home in Sirince, a charming-rustic town near the fabled ruins of Ephesus, the Roman city that was once second in size only to Rome before its harbor silted in and the metropolis was abandoned. I am looking onto a grassy knoll behind our pad where a small donkey is chasing a duck, and we have Blur’s “Girls & Boys” blaring and a cool Sauvignon Blanc in hand. Um, what could be better? And I am wearing batik-printed Etro shorts that tie to hide the copious amounts of mezze (i.e. Turkish tapas) upon which I have snacked. The diet begins on October 1 back in NYC.

Fat and happy. Bliss. Still, I can disco dance around a rented villa in southern Turkey like a mother…

But back to more important matters…

A few trips ago to Turkey John and I made the acquaintance of a fabulous rug manufacturer, and we all really hit it off. Fast forward a few years, and today we have our “Turkish Delight” (that’s what Jason calls our carpet guru) craft custom carpets in gorgeous wool that we then have shipped back to the United States. And unlike many of the tourist-driven rug shops in Turkey, our contact is the real deal and only uses vegetable dyes to color his wools and manufactures everything by hand on looms not far from Ephesus. And he can take our e-mailed sketches and turn them into the most fabulous creations in only two months. Custom colors? Check. Custom sizes? Check. What a find!

Here’s a visit to Turkish Delight’s shop and atelier…

Turkish Delight!

That's "Turkish Delight" on the right carrying several of the rugs that John and I purchased today. Turkish Delight is such a lovely gentleman and crafts kick-ass rugs and carpets.


Turkish Delight's vegetable-dyed wool hangs to dry before becoming part of his glorious wool carpets. P.S. Turkey not only does the most fabulous wool carpets, but they are also renowned for their wool kilim rugs which I also adore (kilims were often crafted as part of a woman's dowry). The flat cotton rugs that hail from India are called dhurries. Carpet 101.

Dream Weaver!

This lovely and talented lady is busy at work upon her loom crafting one of Turkish Delight's stellar wool rugs. Note the vegetable-dyed skeins of wool hanging overhead. The average rug takes 2 months to craft...


Those stunning colors, the gorgeous weave, the subtle cut-outs. Turkish Delight outdid himself on this sybaritic rug. It's like super bass. A la Miss Nicki Minaj. Only in Turkey.

A Gorgeous Rug!

Um, this wool rug is a masterpiece. Wow! Look at that fabulous pattern, I want to bow down and roll about on this fabulous runner. Naked. But John would have a cow if I stripped. Still. Um, delicious!


Get That Rig A’Rockin’!

Friday, August 26th, 2011


I plan on whipping up some Hurricane cocktails this weekend whilst listening to the mellow tunes of Scorpions' "Rock You Like a Hurricane."


If you live on the east coast, are you ready for the hurricane? I am hightailing it to upstate New York this afternoon and have stocked up on wine in a box and Stouffer’s frozen French bread pizza (add some truffle oil and sea salt, and it tastes like a million bucks!), so I am all set. And I have my stash of Alfred Hitchcock films. And a playlist full of songs like “Rock You Like a Hurricane” and “Hurricane” by 30 Seconds to Mars. Weenie wants me to buy a raft or water wings just in case, so stay tuned.

And I plan to cozy up in bed.

Speaking of beds, you should really have fun with your sheets and such. Never, ever buy a head-to-toe look but rather mix and match and have fun with your linens. As Jason likes to say, “Libidinous linens are the way to my heart.” Jason also likes to say, “If the rig’s a rockin’, don’t come a knockin’,” but this is a family-geared blog, so we won’t explore his profound observations on a good bedside manner in this post.

Here’s our bed at Madcap Cottage that we have outfitted with the Suri Flowers bedding from the Martha Stewart Collection for Macy’s along with pillowcases that we picked up in Turkey and India and a bed quilt that we found at a flea market in Kentucky. And we added some custom ikat pillows…

And please note the simple bedside table that we found in Florida and painted black and decoupaged with elephants that we cut out from wallpaper. It’s a lot of look for minimal cash.

Isn’t this a cozy spot to hole up this weekend?

Elephant Table!

A close-up of the simple night table that John and I purchased in Florida and painted black and then decoupaged with elephants and flowers. Chic, n'est-ce pas?

Madcap Cottage Bedroom!

Here's the cozy bedroom at Madcap Cottage in the Catskill Mountains of New York. I cannot think of a better place to ride out a tempest. And just look at our fabulous bedding. We picked up the blue-and-white lamps in New Orleans. The ikat shades are from Shades of Light, a fabulous online source.


Adding Oomph to Our Walls!

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

Viva La India!

John and I wanted to bring a little Indian-styled glamour into Madcap Cottage, so we turned to the wonderful folks at Casart Wall Coverings. The result is sublime. Here's John seated in front of the super-magical Taj Mahal in Agra, India.

Afternoon, gang!

How’s your week going? We have been juggling all sorts of craziness here in New York: First, there was an earthquake earlier in the week, and now a hurricane is coming through this Sunday… Crazy, huh? If a storm of locusts comes sweeping through Brooklyn on Monday, I plan on cracking open a box or three of white wine and drinking up in end-o-the-world glamour. I am going down in style.

But let’s hope that it’s all just a blip on the old radar, so don’t give up on those renovation projects.

This past weekend, John, Blair, and I installed a fabulous product from Casart Wall Coverings in the kitchen of Madcap Cottage in upstate New York.

What?! You aren’t familiar with Casart? They are a fabulous company that creates amazing wall coverings that are like giant stickers. You simply pull off the backing and install. It’s like a big decoupage project, and there’s none of the hassle usually associated with wallpaper. No bubbles. So wallpaper paste. No fights with your significant other.

We worked with Casart and had them blow up a vintage black-and-white print that John and I found at a bazaar in India. Our custom wall covering arrived in 4 wonderful rolls, and we installed the product in less than two hours. Simple, chic, and fast.

Check out our handiwork:

Indian Print!

Here's the vintage Indian print that John and I had blown up and asked Casart to craft into a wall covering that perfectly fit our kitchen wall.


The Casart Wall Coverings rolls hang from the beam in our kitchen ceiling in anticipation of being hung. To put us in the right mood, Jason cranked up the fabulous song "Midnight at the Oasis" and ran around Madcap Cottage singing "Let's slip off to a sand dune, real soon, and kick up a little dust."

Jason and John!

Jason inspects the wall covering and weighs in. Announced Jason: "I'll be your belly dancer, prancer."

Trimming to Be Clever!

John trims the Casart wall covering around the outlet on our kitchen wall. Look at those camels traversing our wall en route from the mosque to perhaps a far-flung harem or spice bazaar. Jason wanted to get up on the kitchen counter and do the dance of the seven veils, but John thought that a little sand dance might be inappropriate at 9am on a Saturday. "Wait til' sundown," announced Jason, sucking in deep on his hookah pipe. "I'll be Salome and let's call this fair land Babylon."

Blair and John!

Blair and John work their magic, and the Casart "mural" of an Indian mosque comes together upon the wall of our Madcap Cottage kitchen. Jason called Blair, "Jasmine," for the day: "Will you be my genie in a bottle?"

The Big Reveal!

Here's the kitchen with our custom Casart Wall Covering in place. Chic, huh? And so easy to install. P.S. The Casart products are super easy to remove if we decide to take the wall in a more "Attila the Hun En Route to Meet the Visigoths" sort of route.